Sunday, September 16, 2012

iPhone 5

Line already forming in New York for iPhone 5

So far, it's the usual semiprofessional line sitters outside Apple's flagship New York store. Still, the indications are there's significant demand for the device. Buying one on Friday may require a sleeping bag and folding chair.

NEW YORK--The iHaters must be pulling their hair out.

Demand for the iPhone 5 appears to be white hot. Lines are already forming outside Apple stores. In the very early hours this morning, people hoping to buy the handset -- swaddled in sleeping bags or heavy coats -- were camping out overnight in front of Apple's 5th Avenue store, also known as the Cube.

They'd began gathering on Friday, a full week before the devices are scheduled to go on sale at stores. If the iPhone 5 follows the same pattern as other popular Apple products, the lines will continue to grow.

This is the time when the public's adoration for Apple products is in full view. Few tech companies are as good as Apple at generating huge demand, and then turning that demand into spectacle. The media will play their role, interviewing the people at the head of the line at Apple stores who will vouch for the quality of Apple's products.

For Apple critics and the fans of competing devices, the scene must be excruciating.

Those people can console themselves with this: the line in front of the Cube appears to lack many true Apple fans. By that I mean there is little to learn about the public's devotion to Apple by interviewing the five or six people who were waiting in line just after midnight this morning.

Most are publicity seekers.

No, Greg Packer wasn't among them. Packer is a well known publicity hound in New York who has made a hobby out of being first in line at all sorts of events, including Apple's, and then grabbing all the attention when reporters do their man-on-the-street interviews. Packard is gone but those first in line at the Cube today acknowledge they aren't sleeping on the streets solely to buy the next-generation iPhone.

Hazem Sayed told CNET he's in line for a chance to generate some publicity for Vibe, a software application. Google Sayed's name and you'll see that he's as famous for standing in line as he is for creating Vibe. During the iPad 2 sale in March 2011, Sayed paid a college student $900 for the No.1 position in line, and was written up in and other media outlets.

Behind Sayed in line was Jessica Mellow, a body-paint artist and model, who is also a veteran line sitter. Mellow and buddy Keenan Thompson camped out in front of the Cube for the iPhone 4S sale last October. She readily acknowledges that she is in line partly in an effort to promote a company.

So, does the appearance of these kinds of marketers signify anything important? Well, some might ask that if demand for the iPhone 5 wasn't significant and Apple product releases didn't attract a lot of attention, then these people wouldn't be sleeping on the cold concrete.

All the indications are that a large number of legitimate iPhone fans will soon line up behind them.

Apple managers said last week they were "blown away" by the number of iPhone 5 preorders. Apparently, the company exhausted its stock of phones available for preorder within an hour on Friday. The wait times for preorders are now two or three weeks. For those people that absolutely must own the handset the first day it goes on sale, the only way to guarantee that is standing in line at an Apple store or some other participating retailer.

To Apple's detractors, these promoter/line sitters are perfectly suited for these events. To them, the line sitters are symbols of how demand for the iPhone is largely a product of hype.

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